October 30, 2007

Making a hat block out of a 40 mm cork sheet – Step 1: planning

Filed under: Making a cork block,millinery techniques and cheats — Cristina de Prada @ 2:45 pm

Planning the blockIt’s been a while, but on my defense I will say that I’ve been very busy, so I have many things to tell you.

I’ve been (and still am) busy making a hat block out of cork (the way my friend Nina makes them). First step, I bought myself this jigsaw which had a reasonable price (99.95 euro) along with the fine cutting blades (2.45 euro), some drilling stuff and sanding tools and it total I pocketed 145 euro, which I thought was reasonable.

I bought the cork sheet at a local specialized shop called Surotecnia. There you can buy all things cork, and for our purpose you can buy sheets of 30 and 40 millimeters of what they call Industrial agglomerated cork. Each sheet measures 915 x 610mm and has these specs:

density: 120 – 140 – 150 Kg/m3

weight resistance: 2.000 – 2.300 Kg/m2

The idea is to make a homburg style hat (block) for Peter, and so I spent some time looking at pictures to get an idea of the shape of the hat. The little book you can see in the picture is Italian (with text in Italian and English) and has been out of print for ages -my edition is from 1988!- (this one seems to be a reprint, available second hand). There’s a MEN’S HATS (IL CAPPELLO DA UOMO) book, and a WOMEN’S HATS (IL CAPPELLO DA DONNA) book on the same series.

A homburg traditionally has a central indentation on the top and a rolled up rim (usually edged with a grosgrain ribbon). In other parts of Europe it’s known as a “chapeau diplomate” (France) or “cappello alla diplomatica” (Italy).

Front and profile drawings - click to enlarge To get the right size and shape, first I measured Peter’s head size and I also measured front to back and side to side to make the oval shape as close to his actual head shape as possible. It’s not easy to get an oval shape, but I used a flexible ruler (see top picture), which helped a lot. Using a tape I made sure the size was (more or less) correct, in any case bigger than necessary, so later on I can trace the block onto paper for the right oval. I first cut one half (right side) of the oval, and traced it on the other side to make sure it was symmetrical.

I also used brown paper to do front and profile life size drawings of the homburg shape that I wanted, and that I can later use as reference when shaping the block.

To be continued…

October 22, 2007

Profile picture of purple hat

Filed under: Millinery projects — Cristina de Prada @ 7:46 pm

Jill asked to see a profile picture of the new hat, and I think I did a lousy job at that (the profile link on the previous post is for Somerville’s hat not mine!).

Here is mine:

click to enlarge

As you can see this hat is curved at the back. Nina and I disagree on the way to wear it. She thinks it should be worn on the back of the head showing some hair at the front, but that way it doesn’t sit well, but if you put it a little bit forward it sits perfectly and keeps close to the head. I also think that the block is not symmetrical and it’s meant to be worn slightly to the right.

October 20, 2007

Philip Somerville hat picture from Cath’s website

Filed under: Other Millinery people — Cristina de Prada @ 9:47 pm

A better picture from Cath’s site…
Philip Somerville hatOn the comments of the previous post you might have seen Cath’s comment saying that my hat reminds her of the Philip Somerville hat she has for rental at her shop Pebbles Hat Hire. Indeed it looks a lot like the one I made, but mine is close to the head on the back, and this one is straight on the back (more of a cylinder).

Cath also makes herself gorgeous hats, you can look at them here and drool!

October 19, 2007

Pictures of the finished purple hat

Filed under: daily life,Millinery projects,Purple hat from vintage block — Cristina de Prada @ 5:34 pm

Here are the promised pictures!

First of all, here’s a picture taken yesterday night at Loewe‘s fashion show where we tagged along with my mother. Loewe is a Spanish fashion brand who makes marvelous handbags, but also clothes.

Maria Jose, myself and Laure-Amelie

Here are pictures of the hat taken at home…

click to enlarge!

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Hope you like it!

October 17, 2007

Costume jewelry collection on the Antiques Roadshow uk

Filed under: Costume Jewelry,daily life,Other things I love — Cristina de Prada @ 12:35 pm

Expert Geoffrey Munn pointing at one of the brooches

Before I forget. If you are curious about my costume jewelry brooch collection you can get a glimpse at it next Sunday 21 October on BBC1. And shame on me… I’m not wearing a hat!

Purple hat from vintage block

Click to see more pictures of blockA one day hat, using a borrowed block from Nina. This block, dating probably to the 50’s, belonged to a milliner from Barcelona.

The challenge with this block is managing to get the creases well marked. I’ve used reed for this purpose, precut to the right length I have used pins to keep it in place, stretching to make sure the felt is flat.

To prepare the felt I’ve sprayed the interior with water and microwaved it for 1 minute (wrapped in a cloth). Then I’ve brushed the inside with ecologic sizing (that smells of white glue) and put it back for a minute in the microwave, all wrapped up. By the way, never put flammable sizing in the microwave unless you want your house to explode! After this process the felt is really soft and the steam has gotten to the core of the felt (you can also turn the felt inside out to make it easier to size and spray).

Once smoking hot I’ve pulled the felt over the block (previously covered with plastic wrap), calculating for more felt on the front where the creases go (and the flap under is larger). After that I’ve started pinning the reed on the creases (with hardened steel pins using a small hammer). Here are some pictures (out of focus… sorry!):

Reed pinned down to mark crease

The one worry here is the fact that the felt will be marked by the reed, but fortunately the marks have disappeared after some steaming (using my kettle, I never put the blocks in the microwave) and brushing (with my brass brush, that I’ve noticed has a sticker saying it’s a jewelery brush, which must be softer than the bbq cleaning ones).

The underside rim is part of the finished hat and is not to be trimmed away. It’s important that it remains flat, so after pinning it I added a piece of reed all around to make sure it would look neat.

To keep the shape of the crown top I have used a small fabric bag filled with marble powder (the powder purchased at an art supplier, the bag made by Nina). It’s really heavy and it adapts to the shape, but because some dust comes out it’s necessary to put a cloth between the felt and the bag.

My air oven allows for very low temperatures, so I set it to 50ºC (32ºF) and put the block inside for a couple of hours. Half way through I took out the marble dust bag so that the top would dry completely.

Hat in the oven - click to enlarge

Once dry I took out the pins with some heavy duty pliers, gave the felt some steam and a brush, and then trimmed the excess felt from the underside using a cutter (carefully avoiding to damage the block). Then I coaxed it out of the block, which was a bit stressful because I had to stretch the edge a little so it would pop out. Fortunately it was not too bad and folded back in without any deformation.

Will post pictures of the finished had soon!

October 16, 2007

Night out at the Barcelona Opera House (Liceu)

Filed under: daily life — Cristina de Prada @ 10:43 pm

Montse Dalmau in the middle, Maria Jose on the right, me on the leftYesterday night there was a gala to celebrate the 160 anniversary of Barcelona’s opera house, known as Liceu.

I happened upon two tickets and went along with Maria Jose (aka my cousin). She arrived thirty seconds before me and called immediately to say that we were severely under dressed. Well, we were dressed elegantly but the level there was something else (and we didn’t know!). All the high class ladies of Barcelona with their long gowns and their big rocks where there, many with what my cousin calls a “wind tunnel effect” on their faces, too many liftings leaving them unrecognizable.

Turned out that Infanta Cristina (daughter of the King of Spain) was attending too! Funny enough the press only talks about the fact that she “recicled” her gown (she had worn the same gown recently to another event), and personally I think it’s great that she does that!

I asked Nina to lend me her Sea Anemone hat that I truly adore. Upon returning home I realized that I had perched it on the wrong side of the head, as it is customary to lean hats to the right side of ones head. I’m not really sure why it has to be on the right side, but perhaps it’s because it would allow you to dance cheek-to-cheek with your partner, and that seems to be good enough reason.

You can see my cousin and esteemed friend Montse (that we met by pure chance”) on the picture taken right after the show. The show was really nice, with a sample of what is usually played at the Liceu: choral music, opera and ballet. I particularly liked the ballet because it was my first experience watching Angel Corella who is the first dancer of the American Ballet (he is originally from Madrid, Spain’s capital). Along with three ballerinas they danced some numbers of the ballet “Who Care’s”, choreographed by Ballanchine to Gershwins music. Angel Corella danced spectacularly.
Finally I just want to give my thanks to Nina, the hat was much praised!

We ended up the night with a Chai Latte and headed home.

Today I’ve made a new hat, taken pictures and hope to post it all by tomorrow morning!

October 10, 2007

Pre-blocked beret – hand shaped into a tilted hat

Filed under: Millinery projects — Cristina de Prada @ 4:57 pm

Final look of the new hat

I’m pleased with the way it has turned out, although it’s such a soft felt that doesn’t look completely even in places. I’ve used the minimum amount of stitches to keep it flowing.

Also, following Kate’s advice I have used one of my brooches on the back of the hat, where it’s a bit plainer.

Vintage American brooch, 40's

Hand shaped beret – Millinery Mondays with Nina

Filed under: Millinery projects — Cristina de Prada @ 10:20 am

Hand shaped tilted hat - work in process

Monday morning’s are going to be, if we manage to keep it up, hatmaking mornings. This Monday was the first day, and I met Nina at her workshop. She worked on a cap that she started a long time ago and was waiting to be finished, and she gave me a felt, preshaped as a flat beret in navy, to see if I could do something with it.

I’m not too convinced about the result, but the more I retouched it the worse I saw it, so when I got home I took it apart and started again, based on the same spiral idea.

This Monday was cut short because Nina hat to leave early, but in the future I’m hoping we will have at least 4 hours to work on hats.

One of the things I would like to learn to do is a cork block, and I will hopefully be able to share that with you. I was thinking about making a homburg for Peter, which I believe will suit him very well, and I will try to make the block for that (although Nina says there is no need to make a block with the crease since it can be hand creased when wet and it will keep the crease when dry).
Nina with the cap she was making

Here you can see Nina, looking great with the new reversible cap.

Back to my new hat, below you can see the original shape of the beret, still with it’s original label. I will post the final result soon!

Flat preshaped beret

October 5, 2007

Rain protector for hats (hat covers)

Filed under: Millinery suppliers — Cristina de Prada @ 3:16 pm

Hatcover on, ready for a rainy dayI won a bunch of “Hat Covers” recently after entering the competition of the HATalk electronic magazine (read my review here), and I’ve been wanting to show them to you ever since.

Ok. So when you’re wearing that on top of your hat you don’t look at all glamorous, but it beats the hell out of putting a used supermarket bag or a newspaper on top of your hat to avoid a total meltdown. Rain and hats don’t go well together.

So, about this neat product. It takes very little space and is easy to fold back flat. It’s folded in a concertina shape that makes the whole thing easy to pull out and store back, and has satin ribbons to tie up under the shin.

Folded Hat Cover

Taking very little space in a purse or evening bag, if you love your hat and are expecting rain (or want to be on the safe side), I would say it’s worth it to leave the house with one. (more…)

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